To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. They must make a philosophical/ spiritual leap & become more ‘human’ human beings. In order to change/ transform the world, they must change/ transform themselves.“ ~ Grace Lee Boggs.
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My husband and I are a few weeks away from our first wedding anniversary. He’s job hunting. I’m writing furiously. We’re looking at houses we can gut and rebuild. And we’re talking about children. The thought of having a child with him makes me happy in a way I can’t explain. He is one of the best people I’ve ever known and the fact that I could bring more of his energy into the world makes me grateful and joyous. It also scares the hell out of me.
I am white. My husband is Laotian. His is a rich and complex culture I am not qualified to describe. This also means my children will be people of color. In light of recent events in Charlottesville I’ve had to sit with and consider what this means. My children will be born into a country where adults can carry torches in the street as a refusal of their right to exist. This moment fills me with fear and ache for what I will be bringing them into.
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However, it also makes me aware of my privilege. This fear is new for me. Though I’ve worried about what my children will face in having a disabled mother, I never stopped to think how their color might impact them. This is a luxury. Mothers of color in America have always known this fear. They have always had to train their kids in how to survive an encounter with a cop. They practice what to say and where to put their hands. And these are just the situations that have been shared with me. I know that as a white woman from a particular kind of suburban upbringing there are countless other examples of these lessons in safety that I have never had to consider. But that is exactly the problem. Hatred is never just what we see on the surface. What we show to the world is never the whole picture.
And so, if what is being presented to us as racism is so blatant that the photos look like a lynch mob and “protesters” are dressing as armed members of the national guard to intimidate their neighbors… What aren’t we seeing? What do we as privileged members of society miss is lurking below the surface? I’ve always considered myself a pretty active community member and I still didn’t deeply confront these questions till the safety on the line was that of my family. What does that mean for the people who won’t end up in relationships like mine. How many lives will go on without looking this cruelty in the face because it doesn’t change the lives of white folks directly?
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I debated heavily whether it was my place to write this article. After all who am I to take up space in a situation where others are being so adversely affected. I decided the answer is this. It is my responsibly as a member of a community to not tolerate this cruelty. To ignore the pain of others is to welcome it. To ignore oppression is to side with the oppressors. We should each be required to offer the gifts we have in pursuit of equality. Words are the gift I have. I can say that I as a white woman have benefited from the pain that has led to these events.
I have been protected by my privilege from having to question myself. It is my responsibility to question myself. It is my responsibility to demand protection for every family the way I would for my own. All children in a community are our children. It should not be placed on the shoulders of any mother to protect her child on her own. We must be the kind of neighbors who would shelter any child from cruelty. In that way, we are all children and all neighbors.
So what next? We listen. We listen to people of color and believe them. We learn how we contribute to the problem and consider how we can better be a part of the solution. On the larger scale, we can give our money or our time to groups that defend equality. We can partake in events that show our community as a space that protects the abused and doesn’t welcome the hateful. On a smaller scale we can talk about it. We can refuse to let hateful attitudes exist in our social groups. We can call government officials and insist that action be taken.
We educate the people around us so that burden does not fall on people of color. We can make art about it. We can vote for candidates who share these values. The one thing we can’t do is ignore it. Avoidance is easy and often more comfortable. It is also how great atrocities are committed. All throughout history the willingness of a population to look away has enabled bigoted groups to flourish. This is your moment to decide what side of history you’ll be on.[Featured Image: Black and white image of people attending protest, the images centers two people of color. Flickr.com/Neil MoraleeBy: Neil Moralee ]